Black leaders erupt over Barclays' sports deal
Friday 02 February 2007
When Barclays agreed to pay more than $300m (£152m) to get its name on a new basketball stadium in Brooklyn, it thought it had pulled off one of the most exciting marketing coups in American sport.
But just a few weeks on, the British bank is battling to prevent a public relations disaster, as black leaders demand the deal be scrapped because of Barclays' historic support for the apartheid regime in South Africa and what they believe are profits it made from slavery.
Barclays says the allegations about its links to the 18th-century slave trade are "simply not true" - based on an inaccurate book written 60 years ago - and it is now mired in an exchange of historical documents with opponents.
Politicians, churchmen and newspaper columnists say it would be an insult to black residents to name the complex the Barclays Centre, as planned.
The basketball arena will be the new home for the New Jersey Nets, and forms the central part of a $4bn Frank Gehry-designed complex that includes 16 skyscrapers and will, according to its proponents, stimulate a renaissance in an underprivileged area of New York's outer borough.
Letitia James, a Brooklyn council member, said that accepting hundreds of millions of dollars from Barclays was like "eating the fruit of a poisonous tree". She said: "Brooklyn has been described as the 'black belt' of New York City, and because of their past practices, I do not believe it is appropriate that this deal goes ahead. We've no legal grounds to stop it, but we will be putting moral pressure on the shareholders and investors in the development project."
Barclays was forced to pull out of apartheid-era South Africa in 1986 after a long and bitter fight by equal rights campaigners around the world. It eventually calculated that the damage to its reputation was going to cost it more than selling out of what was then the country's second-largest bank.
Some opponents of the Nets development are demanding that the bank pays "reparations", saying it would be a gesture equivalent to its decision in South Africa to back Nelson Mandela's charitable foundation.
"All options should be on the table," the Brooklyn assembly member Hakeem Jeffries told the Brooklyn Paper, "including payment for past wrongs and termination of the agreement."
Barclays unveiled the naming rights to the development at a press conference two weeks ago, attended by the rapper Jay-Z, who is an investor in the Nets, and New York City's Mayor, Michael Bloomberg. The deal commits Barclays to fund community initiatives such as repairing street basketball facilities.
Bob Diamond, the bank's top US executive, said it was part of Barclays' push to get its name better known in the US. It doesn't run high street banks here, but offers financial services on Wall Street and has branched into investment funds for the public.
Ms James said opponents would reveal their research on Barclays' history at a press conference.
Peter Truell, a bank spokesman, said Barclays was sending its opponents documents showing that early Barclays family members fought against slavery.
He added the allegations appeared to have originated in a 1944 book, Capitalism and Slavery, which said the bank was founded by the Quaker slave traders Alexander and David Barclay. "Our research shows that Alexander Barclay was never a partner, employee or agent of the bank and the 'David Barclay' referred to in this book also had no connection with our bank," he said. "To the contrary, 'our' David Barclay formed a committee of London Quakers to oppose the slave trade, and later became involved with the committee in taking the Quaker anti-slave trade message nationwide within the United Kingdom."
- 1 Rarest Beanie Baby bought for just £10 at car boot sale could be sold for £62,500 on eBay
- 2 Katie Hopkins and The Sun editor David Dinsmore reported to police for incitement to racial hatred following migrant boat column
- 3 Giorgio Armani criticises the way some gay men dress saying 'a man has to be a man'
- 4 Rebecca Francis accuses Ricky Gervais of using 'influence' to target female hunters after receiving barrage of death threats
- 5 Australian student Tommy Connolly, 23, adopts his pregnant, homeless 17-year-old cousin to give her a chance at 'a better life'
Rarest Beanie Baby bought for just £10 at car boot sale could be sold for £62,500 on eBay
Katie Hopkins and The Sun editor David Dinsmore reported to police for incitement to racial hatred following migrant boat column
'Jihadi John': Isis executioner Mohammed Emwazi wanted to wage jihad in Somalia until his friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
Parma, Missouri: 80 per cent of town's police quit after first black mayor is elected
Australian student Tommy Connolly, 23, adopts his pregnant, homeless 17-year-old cousin to give her a chance at 'a better life'
If I’m being racially abused I don’t need a stranger with a saviour complex to rescue me
The only black face in the Ukip manifesto is on the page about overseas aid
Ukip is the only main political party to not address LGBT rights in its manifesto
Food banks: One million Britons will soon be using them, according to Trussell Trust
Religion isn't growing, it is becoming vigorous in its demise, says philosopher AC Grayling
BBC election debate: The one photo that summed up the whole 90-minute leaders debate
iJobs Money & Business
£60000 - £70000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...
£30 - 35k (DOE): Guru Careers: We are seeking a Pricing Analyst with experienc...
£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...
£21000 - £24000 per annum: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group has been engaged b...